1542: Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the "Bay of Smokes." Little did he know that the desolate tidal flats would be transformed into one of the largest, busiest and most successful man-made harbors in the world. Tidal flats and marshes remained pristine for more than 200 years largely because Europe was concentrating its New World colonization on America's East Coast.
1771: Spanish explorers established a mission 40 miles inland from San Pedro. Mission monks were first traders to use the harbor. The Spanish prohibited settlers from conducting business with other countries, restricting their trade to two ships a year carrying goods from Spain's House of Trades. Despite restrictions, San Pedro prospered.
1805: The Leila Byrd was the First American trading ship to call at San Pedro, bringing sugar, textiles and household goods in exchange for otter pelts and provisions.
1822: Independent Mexican government lifted oppressive restrictions. San Pedro became a robust commercial center and an attractive home for new settlers.
1848: California under American control. Business in San Pedro harbor booming and it became evident the harbor needed to be expanded to accommodate increasing cargo volume for a growing Los Angeles population.
1850: Phineas Banning began the first of a lifetime of ventures that earned him the name, "Father of Los Angeles Harbor." Ventures included a freight and passenger transportation business and the founding of Wilmington, adjacent to the wharf he built to serve his business empire. Among other achievements, Banning provided valuable assistance to the Union cause during the Civil War and, as a state senator, introduced the first railroad bill to the California legislature.
1869: Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad began service between the bay and Los Angeles. This 21-mile stretch of track was the first railroad in Southern California and marked the beginning of a new era of development for the harbor area.
1871: Main Channel dredged to -10 feet. Breakwater built between Rattlesnake Island (now Terminal Island) and Deadman's Island (formerly located near Terminal Island).
1885: Commerce in San Pedro skyrocketing. Port handling 500,000 tons of import and export cargo annually.
1897: Great free-harbor fight settled. Rear Admiral John C. Walker recommended that port development continue in San Pedro, dashing plans for port development further up the coast and setting the stage for the modern era of the Port of Los Angeles.
1906: City of Los Angeles annexed a 16-mile strip of land on the outskirts of San Pedro and Wilmington -- two harbor towns that three years later would join the City of Los Angeles.
1907: Port of Los Angeles officially founded with the creation of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.
1911-12: First 8500-foot section of the breakwater completed. Main Channel widened to 800 feet and dredged to -30 feet. Southern Pacific Railroad completed its first major wharf in San Pedro.
1914: Panama Canal opened. As the nearest major American port northwest of the Panama Canal, the Port of Los Angeles became the natural port-of-call for most transpacific and coastal users.
1920s: Dynamic growth for the Port, marked by a boom in petroleum, lumber and citrus trade. For the first time in history, Los Angeles surpassed San Francisco as the West Coast's busiest seaport and ranked second only to New York in foreign export tonnage.
1937: Construction of the 18,500-foot-long extension of the middle breakwater completed. World War II: Shipbuilding quickly became the Port's prime economic activity with shipyards collectively employing more than 90,000 workers. Post World War II: Cargo containers adopted into commercial use, changing the industry forever.
1959: Matson Navigation Company's Hawaiian Merchant made its first shipment of 20 cargo containers, marking the beginning of the containerized cargo revolution. Car carriers also became common during this period.
1960s: By this time it was financially infeasible, and in many cases impossible, for large ships to pass through the Panama Canal. One viable and economical solution was the creation of a landbridge from the Port of Los Angeles to destinations throughout the U.S. via trucks and trains.
1963: Grand opening of World Cruise Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles (passenger and cargo terminals at Berth 93), designed by AIA award-winning architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. Fickett received the 1963 International First Honor Architectural Design Award for his innovative design, which was awarded by an international panel of judges for the most outstanding and prolific structure.
1983: Port completed dredging of the Main Channel to -45 feet.
1985: Port handled 1 million containers in a year for the first time. Four years later, container traffic exceeded 2 million containers.
1986: Port opens the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, providing for the rapid transfer of containers from the Port's marine terminals to trains.
1994: Dredging for Pier 300/400 begins, the largest capital improvement undertaking of any U.S. seaport and the Port's most ambitious development project since its founding.
1996: The Los Angeles City Council designates the Vincent Thomas Bridge as the City of Los Angeles' Official Welcoming Monument.
1997: APL Limited's Global Gateway South opens. Considered to be one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced ocean and rail container terminals. The Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility is also completed, responding to the needs of Evergreen and NYK Line for on-dock intermodal capability. This 47-acre facility allows for the direct transfer of containers to and from ships and railcars.
1999: World's largest shipping line, Maersk Sealand, commits to be the Port's first customer at Pier 400. New partnership estimated to bring the Port $2 billion over a 25-year lease. APM Terminals (a division of Maersk) operates the facility.
2000: Completion of Pier 400 Dredging and Landfill Program, the largest such project in America, a significant milestone in positioning the Port to accommodate the tremendous growth in international trade well into the 21st century. Port of Los Angeles officially becomes the busiest port in North America, ranked by container volume.
2004: The Port of Los Angeles becomes the first port in the world to offer Alternative Maritime Power® (AMP®) to vessels. China Shipping's Xin Yang Zhou becomes the first ship in the world to plug-in to AMP® at Berth 100. The use of AMP® saves more than one ton of smog-forming NOx and 87 lbs. of particulate matter from being released into the air for every 24 hours that the ship is utilizing this electrical plug-in technology.
2006: Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach jointly release the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. This historical plan aims to reduce emissions by 50 percent over the next five years. The Port of Los Angeles set itself as an environmental steward and model for ports around the globe.
2006: Port of Los Angeles moves an impressive 8.5 million TEUs - the first time any North American port had ever surpassed the 8 million-TEU threshold.
2007: The Port of Los Angeles celebrates its Centennial.
2009: Port of Los Angeles launches the landmark Clean Truck Program. Since implementation, the Clean Truck Program has removed more than 16,000 dirty-diesel trucks off the road, slashing harmful truck emissions by 90 percent.
2010: Port of Los Angeles Becomes First Port Worldwide to Offer Tariff Reduction for Zero-Emisison Vehicle Shipments.
The “Zero Emission Vehicle Tariff Measure” is the first of its kind in the maritime
industry and is available to any automobile manufacturer who imports through the Port
of Los Angeles.
2011: Wilmington Waterfront Park officially opens to the public. Formerly known as the Harry Bridges Boulevard Buffer Project, Wilmington Waterfront Park, was designed to provide public open space between Port operations and adjacent residences in Wilmington, by widening of Harry Bridges Boulevard and constructing a new 30-acre buffer area between “C” Street and Harry Bridges Boulevard. The park was constructed on adjacent, vacant Port-owned property and offers never-seen-before views of the Wilmington waterfront.
2011: Remodel of the decades-old, 87-acre Cabrillo Way Marina, the largest LA Waterfront and non-terminal construction project at the Port of Los Angeles to date.
2012: Port commits $2.2 million toward the restoration of the historic Angels Gate Lighthouse, originally built in 1913.
2013: Port completes its Main Channel Deepening Project, dredging the Main Channel to -53 feet.
2014: The Port of Los Angeles unveiled the new centerpiece of the LA Waterfront: Downtown Harbor, located on Harbor Boulevard, between 5th and 6th Streets in San Pedro. Situated at the foot of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront District, Downtown Harbor is a vibrant, public harbor and plaza that connects downtown San Pedro to the LA Waterfront.
2015: The largest container ship ever to call at a North American port, CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrives at the Port of Los Angeles. Among the largest in French shipping line CMA-CGM’s fleet, the vessel has a capacity of nearly 18,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) – about a third larger than the biggest container ships that have previously called at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex.
2016: Port of Los Angeles handles 8.8 million TEUs, establishing a new container record for a Western Hemisphere port.